Nicieza Returns to Tim Drake in "Red Robin"

Industry veteran Fabian Nicieza, the man who co-created Deadpool for Marvel Comics in 1991, knows his way around Gotham City. Prior to Tony Daniel's "Battle for the Cowl," Nicieza was the ongoing writer of "Robin" featuring Tim Drake. "Robin" was canceled leading into the game-changing miniseries, which saw Dick Grayson and Damian Wayne become the new Batman and Robin, respectively.

That left Nicieza and Tim without gigs in Gotham, but no sooner did the writer launch a new "Azrael" ongoing series did the superhero find himself a new identity and series, as well, in "Red Robin." Tim also found a new purpose: The Hunt for Bruce Wayne.

Earlier this month, DC Comics announced that Nicieza would be joining forces once again with Tim in his search for Bruce as he'll be replacing Chris Yost as the new regular writer of "Red Robin" beginning with #13 in June.

While Tim is still convinced Bruce Wayne is alive, he's returning to Gotham for Nicieza's first arc to eradicate a surge of organized mobs, which have spread across the city like a virus. And Tim's going to face off against Damian too.

To find out more, CBR News shone the Bat Signal into the skies above Gotham and lo and behold, Mr. Nicieza - not Commissioner Gordon - met us upon the rooftop.

CBR News: First off - and perhaps the most obvious question - is Tim different than the last time you wrote him? Well, because he was Robin before and now he's Red Robin.

Fabian Nicieza: I think he is the same exact person, but he's grown up a little bit, taken on more individual initiative and responsibility and most importantly, he is in a much better place emotionally than when I last wrote him.

One of the frustrations I had when I wrote Tim to end his series run was, well, first that his series was ending and I knew I wouldn't be writing the relaunch, but just as importantly, it was hard to write him in the darker place he needed to inhabit at that time. In order to acknowledge everything he had gone through in the DCU the previous couple of years - the loss of his father, Bart, Conner - to everything Tim was going through - Batman going nutsy in "R.I.P.," leading to Batman going bye-bye in "Final Crisis" - to everything I knew Tim would be going through - namely Dick becoming Batman, Damian becoming Robin, Tim's book relaunch, renaming, re-costuming and Chris Yost's first year on the book - Tim had to be in a darker, grimmer place to end the original "Robin" series.

It's not who the character is, but it is where he was at that time, so I accepted that as part of what I had to do to get Tim to where he had to go.

Now, after Chris's excellent first year, I'm already having more fun, because 1) I'm assuming I'll be writing the book forever, and 2) I get to write a the character who can comfortably have some levity and humor in the book.

This won't be "Ambush Bug" or "Deadpool," of course. Tim will still bring an intellectual, Machiavellian sense of planning to his role as Red Robin, because I think that is part of the character's modus operandi as he matures, but at least he's allowed to smile now after he kicks someone's ass [laughs].

When we spoke, prior to "Battle for Cowl," you said of Tim, and I quote, "Tim is far more prepared for the role [of Batman] than Bruce was at the same age." Do you still feel that way or was that all posturing?

Posturing? Feh. Tim could have put the Batman suit on, it just didn't fit him very well around the armpits and crotch. Of course, Tim is better prepared than Bruce was at this same age, considering Tim has been fighting crime since he was about 14 (and he is almost 18 now), has led both Young Justice and Teen Titans, has more field experience, physical training, etc. than Bruce did at the same age.

Not the least of which, Tim has had Batman to train him for the last several years and Bruce didn't have that. Bruce didn't become Batman until some amorphous early-20s age, so at Tim's age, he was still a high school student who, though clearly focused in his educational endeavors and physical regimen, hadn't traveled the world in borderline pathological preparation for his eventual role as Batman.

So I stand by what I said and I have the evidence of published material to back me up.

During Chris Yost's run on the book, we've seen Tim traversing the globe in search of Bruce Wayne. Will his globe-trotting Bat-hunt continue in your run, or is Red Robin heading back to Gotham?

We expect that the stories in "Red Robin" will allow Tim to operate both in Gotham City and internationally, depending on the nature of the pursuit. Since Tim will be far less reactive to crime and far more proactive in his approach, he will initiate investigations and operations that will take him outside of Gotham at times.

So we're looking at roughly three-fifths Gotham, two-fifths international and maybe a tiny fraction for the occasional interplanetary or extra-dimensional jaunt, as well.

Actually, there is a whole virtual realm I want to develop down the line that involves Grant's "Unternet" idea for the Secret Society and Tim's developing communications with the former-Anarky and current catatonic electronic ghost, Lonnie Machin. But, that's getting way ahead of myself.

Bruce Wayne was obviously a major influence on Tim's life. With Dick considering Tim his equal, who do you see as a mentor for Red Robin? What role does Dick play in Tim's further development as a hero?

I don't think Tim has or needs a mentor figure right now. That maturation was part and parcel of both the "Search for a Hero" story that we did and the first year of "Red Robin." Dick is his older brother. They respect each other. They might not always agree, but they know each of them have each others' backs completely, unequivocally. I address that aspect of their relationship fairly quickly in my run.

I think even when Bruce does return, in whatever capacity that will entail, Tim is now prepared to be his own man.

Will you continue to be exploring aspects of what Chris developed between Ra's and Red Robin?

Yes. I think Chris has created a very interesting dynamic that has a cool payoff coming up.

I tend not to abandon the ongoing continuity of a title I inherit. Historically, I have continued most, if not all, on-going subplots and I will in this case as well. We'll see Tam Fox continue her role as possible girlfriend, we'll see Vicki Vale in the mix, we will get back to Ra's and the Council of Spiders, but at the same time, I'll be bringing back characters I'd percolated in my previous run, villains like Lynx, Scarab, Anarky and Moneyspider. Supporting characters like the corrupt detectives, Cavallo and Wise, Assistant District Attorney Vanessa Rios and some new GCPD Patrol cops as well (since I lost Jamie Harper to the Superman titles).

I want the city to be a supporting character in the book, not just the characters who inhabit the city itself. We'll see a consistency to  the pubs where cops or firemen or bad guys go, nightclubs, maybe even a return of the Hedonist Society club I showed in Batman Confidential, just to see some people's undies get in a bunch!

The solicitation for your first issue teases "an unexpected confrontation between Red Robin and Robin." Can you describe Tim and Damian's relationship and maybe talk about their similarities and differences?

Well, the solicits are a little off to the first issue's final content. We were doing some things on the fly and my ideas for the first arc got changed - for the better - after those pesky editors actually read it and gave me good feedback. Darn those editors, working to make our stories better. Anyway, the confrontation between Tim and Damian will occur in "Red Robin" #14, but the set-up for why it happens begins in #13.

The goal was to have a physical confrontation between them, quickly, up front - both to percolate interest, since everyone loves a good Robin-fight, but also because I wanted to immediately address that these two characters don't like each other, won't necessarily like each other, but can, and have to, co-exist.

"Red Robin" #13 now deals specifically with Tim beginning to set his plans in motion and finding out the gang-truce he'd brokered before he left Gotham is being violated by both Lynx, the leader of the Golden Dragons and the corrupt detectives, Cavallo and Wise.

Can you share any more details about your first arc and perhaps where you're heading long-term with "Red Robin."

The first arc is called "The Hit List," and it's all about Tim re-establishing himself in Gotham and deciding how he will go about the business of being Red Robin.

He has reconnected with Dick and Damian, he knows there are lots of qualified people conducting the search for Bruce Wayne and now he has to figure out how he wants to do what he wants to do. Tim spent several months so focused on what he was doing, that he hadn't focused much on what he would do next. Will he go back to school to finish his senior year? Will he live at Wayne Tower or Wayne Mansion or somewhere else? Does he want to continue his recent relationship with Tam Fox or maybe get back together again with Stephanie, who is in a great place now as Batgirl? And aren't Bryan [Q. Miller] and Lee [Garbett] kicking ass on that book?

I set several things in motion during the "Search for a Hero" arc regarding how Tim would operate if given the chance as a solo player. "The Hit List" begins the process of fleshing those thoughts out. If this is going to be Tim's life, 24/7 job as it were, well, how would he handle it differently than Bruce or Dick or even Superman for that matter? And that is the great thing about Tim's personality. He has a plan and an almost detached curiosity about seeing it implemented.

Not everyone will agree with all aspects of his plan, or all of his methods or all of his decisions, but no one who knows him can criticize that Tim doesn't think things through in ways beyond them; how the long-term and big picture are covered in his methodology and how if, damned, he doesn't find a way to knock those dominoes down, one into the next into the next...

Finally, I'm not sure if you've worked with Marcus [To] before, but I don't think so. Have the two of you had a chance to speak yet and get on the same page as far as "Red Robin" plans are concerned?

I think Marcus is great. I haven't had a chance to work with him before, but as a regular reader of the title, my interest spiked up 100 per cent once he started penciling the book. He has this clean, lean fluid and fun style akin to Mark Bagley or Gil Kane which I think is absolutely perfect for this book, but he can still handle shadow, mood, emotion and the darker aspects of the series' environment.

We've talked about the initial plans, and I know I'm giving him some fun stuff to draw, so I can't wait to see his pages come in for my first script. I'm going to enjoy Marcus for as long as he's around, since I figure anyone who is getting that good that fast will be stolen soon enough. I still haven't gotten over losing Greg Capullo from "X-Force" back in 1993. Donde esta Greg? Anyway, hopefully, Marcus is around for a while and we get a good run of issues under our belt.

"Red Robin," written by Fabian Nicieza and featuring art by penciller Marcos To and inker Ray McCarthy, is scheduled for June 2.

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